Facebook's first order of business for its Paper app, which just launched on Feb. 3, won't just be to get it onto iOS devices, but to defend its name in court. Following the app's launch on Monday, FiftyThree, which already has a terrific drawing app called Paper, publicly called on Facebook to change the name of its new reader app, but the social network refused. At the time, FiftyThree said it was keeping its options open, and has now filed a trademark for the "Paper" name in order to clear the issue up. FiftyThree currently owns the "Paper by FiftyThree" trademark.
It's not surprising to see FiftyThree take action, despite the apps being very different in functionality. Paper by FiftyThree has earned its place as a staple app on the iPad, but against Facebook's unmatched social presence, the app might soon be relegated further down the search line the longer Facebook Paper is available for iOS. FiftyThree's trademark was filed on Jan. 30, the same day Facebook announced its Flipboard-like experience.
TechCrunch explained that if FiftyThree chooses to move forward legally, the company might have a good case against Facebook. But there's a possibility Facebook could argue its app is distinguishable enough against Paper by FiftyThree that consumers won't be confused. However, according to trademark lawyer Roberto Ledesma, "The more similar the marks the less similar the uses have to be to find infringement. Here the marks are identical so less similarity is needed."
As a startup, even if FiftyThree pursued a lawsuit, it would be like David going up against Goliath—there is the potential for victory, but Facebook has endless resources capable of wearing down competitors, so it might not be worth going to court. On the other hand, as TechCrunch points out, the arrival of Facebook has brought a lot of attention to Paper by FiftyThree, which, despite possibly being pegged down a space or two in the search rankings, will be searched more than ever in the future.
FiftyThree CEO and co-founder, Georg Petschnigg, said Facebook had responded to the company by apologizing, but made no indication it was willing to change the app's name. Now that it's available, it doesn't sound like that'll happen unless some legal action is taken